Showing posts with label Visconti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Visconti. Show all posts

22 January 2018

La Visconti Giapponese

Sometimes reading the pen is truly helpful. Well, mostly always.

At the past Madrid Pen Show I saw the pen on the photograph.


A Visconti. A Visconti?

On it, the signs on the box and on the clip did not really match with the pen itself. The logo of Visconti and the plain inscription on the clip contrasted with the basic structure of the pen—a Japanese eyedropper coated with red urushi. The nib, or rather its engraving, provided the final clue—it was signed by GK, Kabutogi Ginjiro, and the pen is, most likely, a Ban-ei made by Sakai Eisuke (lathe work), Kabutogi Ginjiro (nib), Tsuchida Shuichi (assembly), and Takahashi Kichitaro (urushi coating).


A Ban-ei pen with "nashiji" decoration. Nib signed by Kabutogi Ginjiro.

The additional literature included in the box describes, in Italian, the virtues of the “lacca giapponese” (urushi, of course) and speaks of its long history. It also includes instructions on how to fill and use the pen. Finally, it declares that the pen was part of a limited edition of 100 pens per year, but it does not disclose for how long. This particular unit was made in 1990 as it is numbered as 007/90... out of 100 pens made. (NOTE added on Sept. 2020: Some reports --see comments-- speak of serial numbers over 100 despite what the pen docs claim. So we should add some pinches of salt to those words despite coming from Visconti).


So, what was Visconti doing at that time? How come this very Japanese pen showed up under an Italian brand?

Visconti started its operation in 1988 and immediately contacted the Japanese lathe master Kato Kiyoshi, with whom Visconti would later collaborate in the fabrication of some models, including some versions of the Ragtime. And it is also at this time that Visconti contacted Sakai Eisuke and his team.

Apparently, there was at least two series of pens made by the Ban-ei group for the Italian brand. The first one, to which the pen shown today belongs, had a golden ring on the cap. As was mentioned before, Visconti released 100 units per year and there are records of at least two batches: 1990 and 1991. About the colors, some sources say that there were pens in ro-iro (black) urushi, but I am only aware of pens made in shu-urushi (red) as the one here shown. The clip inscriptions are either "VISCONTI" or "URUSHI".


The GK-signed nib of the Visconti Ban-ei. Note also the inscription on the clip: "VISCONTI".

A second series of Ban-ei pens were produced at a later date—1993 or 1995. On this occasion, the pens carried no rings and came in three colors: black (100 units), red (100 units), and green (50 units). The units I have seen have their clips engraved with the word "URUSHI", but there might be other other texts on them.

Some people speak of a third batch of pens previous to the first series here described. They could have been prototypes and test products later marketed by Visconti.

These are the dimensions of the pen I found at the Madrid Pen Show (2017) that belongs to the first series, and was made in 1990:

Length closed: 145 mm
Length open: 126.5 mm
Length posted: 176 mm
Diameter: 16.5 mm
Weight (dry): 25.3 g
Ink deposit: 3.3 ml


The cap ring carries the unit number of the series over the production year. This particular unit is the 007.90: number 7 (out of 100) made in 1990.

It is interesting to note that these Japanese Viscontis seem to predate those Danitrio-commissioned (::1::, ::2::) that are much better known. However, these Visconti pens remained essentially anonymous, as was customary on Ban-ei pens, and the Italian brand did not even declare where they had been made.


Of course!—we all know by now that GK was a magnificent Italian nibmeister… But reading the pen helps to know what you had on your hands beyond what labels and inscriptions might say.


Platinum 70th anniversary, green celluloid – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 17th 2018
labels: Ban-ei, Visconti, Danitrio, Italia, Japón, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro, maki-e

01 March 2016

Kato in Italy

The figure of Kiyoshi Kato is well known to the readers this blog. He holds a quasi-mythical image as itinerant pen maker in Egypt, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan.

In the 1990s he worked for the Italian company Visconti, founded in 1988 in Florence, making some of the early celluloid pens of the brand. Such is the case of the following example.


Visconti Ragtime II.


The monotone 18 K gold nib. It reads "VISCONTI / 18 K - 750 / FIRENZE / M". The inscription on the clip: "FIRENZE VISCONTI / ITALY RAGTIME".

It is a Visconti Ragtime (thanks, Peaceable Writer) from the second series (aka Ragtime II, with a monotone 18 K nib) in production between 1994 and 1999. It is made of cellulose nitrate sheet, rolled and welded.

Some argue that this approach –rolling and welding—is superior to turning a solid rod because the final cylinder is less likely to shrink and contract over the years. The obvious side effect is the existence of a welding like on body and cap. The flat ends of the Ragtime are, in actual terms, lids to the rolled cylinder and are welded to it, as can be seen on the following picture.


The welding line on the barrel made of cellulose nitrate.


The piston knob shows the black lid of the celluloid cylinder, welded to it.

These are the dimensions of this piston filler:
Length closed: 139 mm
Length open: 124 mm
Length posted: 165 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight: ca 19.7 g (inked)

Kato’s engagement with Visconti ended around 2000. Since the mid 1990s, he and his wife had started making pens in Japan for the Japanese market. This was his last endeavour—he passed away in 2010.

My thanks to Mr. Shimizu.


Gama Forever – Montblanc Racing Green

Bruno Taut
Nakano March 1st, 2016
etiquetas: Visconti, Kato Seisakusho

04 November 2012

Fude Matsuri

Nibmeister Yamada is already well known to the readers of these pages. His innovative approach to nibs and his impressive skills to manipulate them are always sources of amazement.

At the last Fuente meeting in Tokyo (October 27 and 28) he showed the latest modifications he had made for some friends. It was indeed a festival of fude nibs. First, he showed a Visconti Opera, a Twsbi Diamond 540, and a Twsbi Micarta 805 with their nibs modified.


The Visconti Opera with its 14 K gold nib.


The Twsbi Diamond 540's steel nib.


The steel nib of a Twsbi Micarta 805.


All three modified nibs together for comparison.

Later, on the spot, he modified the generic nib of a Lapita Lemon—a mostly uneventful pen sold together with the now discontinued magazine Lapita in 2005.


The Lapita Lemon pen...


...and the writing test with orange ink.

And the very rigid nibs became something more exciting. Hats off, please.

Pilot Custom Heritage 91, SFM nib – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, November 3rd, 2012
labels: plumín, Yamada, evento, Visconti, Twsbi, Lapita